On 1 April 2015, the Special Representative of the Syrian National Coalition to the United Nations, Dr. Najib Ghadbian, delivered a letter to the Security Council on the most recent chemical weapons attacks in Idlib, Syria. The letter calls attention to the newest chlorine gas attacks perpetrated by Syrian regime forces and the urgent need for the imposition of Chapter VII measures. It explains that Council members must work without delay to:
implement a No-Fly Zone;
refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court (ICC);
authorize the OPCW Fact Finding Mission to determine responsibility for the chemical weapons attacks in Idlib.
Full text of the letter is below and pdf copy is available here.
H.E. Ms. Dina Kawar
Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary
Permanent Mission of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan to the United Nations
President of the UN Security Council
1 April 2015
On behalf of the National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces, it is with great alarm that I draw your attention to a new set of chlorine gas attacks perpetrated by Syrian regime forces in and near the Syrian province of Idlib and the urgent need for the imposition of Chapter VII measures, as decided by Security Council resolutions 2118 (2013) and 2209 (2015).
On Monday 30 March 2015 at approximately 1:30 am, Syrian regime helicopters dropped four barrel bombs containing a noxious chemical substance on the Syrian city of Idlib. One day later, on Tuesday 31 March 2015, regime helicopters dropped two more barrel bombs in Idlib’s city center which caused 27 cases of suffocation due to inhalation of a noxious chemical gas. These attacks came less than a week after a similar attack was launched in the towns surrounding Idlib. On the evening of 24 March 2015, Syrian aerial forces pounded the towns of Binnish and Qminas with toxic chemical agents. Witnesses present at the site reported the use of barrel bombs ejected from Syrian regime helicopters. At least 30 people – many of them children and women – received medical treatment for symptoms consistent with chlorine gas attacks, including nausea and difficulty breathing.
The attacks in Idlib were not the first to be perpetrated in the aftermath of Security Council resolution 2209 (2015), adopted less than four weeks ago. On 16 March 2015, Syrian regime aerial forces launched yet another chlorine gas attack in Sarmin, Idlib. These attacks killed a family of six and leaving dozens of others wounded.
The chemical attacks in Sarmin, Binnish and Qminas – like those in Kafr Zita and eastern Ghouta before them—have been committed with impunity. UN Security Council resolutions 2118 (2015) and 2209 (2015) decided to impose Chapter VII measures in the event of further breaches of the resolutions. There have been multiple further breaches. Yet there are no measures, no accountability, no consequences. This impunity has aided and abetted Assad’s atrocities. It has encouraged him to kill, torture and terrorize civilians without fear of repercussions or meaningful consequences. And it has prolonged the conflict, fuelled the rise of ISIL, cost lives and damaged global security – the precise opposite of the Security Council’s mandate.
Impunity must end now. Anyone who uses chemical weapons to target and kill civilians must be held accountable. And firm actions must be undertaken to deter the future use of the chemical agent chlorine gas as a weapon of war, as well as the disproportionate and indiscriminate use of conventional weapons. The legal basis already exists through which to deter future attacks. Council members must work without delay to:
implement a no-fly zone. A no-fly zone, implemented through the enforcement of Security Council resolutions 2118 (2013) and 2209 (2015) would put an immediate end to Assad’s systematic deployment of chemical gas by air. It would protect Syrian civilians from aerial chemical warfare. It would enable humanitarian access and the eventual safe return of Syrian civilians to parts of Syria. And it would be implementable and enforceable. If the Security Council can’t act because of the irresponsible use of the veto, concerned member states have a legal and moral obligation to act unilaterally;
refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court (ICC). The Security Council has repeatedly called for accountability, including in resolutions 2118 (2013), 2139 (2014), and 2209 (2015). To date, however, a lack of consensus among Security Council members has prevented the Council from authorizing the foremost instrument capable of delivering justice to victims: a referral of the situation in Syria to the ICC. Security Council members can and must break this deadlock by adopting a new resolution referring the situation in Syria to the ICC. If the Security Council can’t act because of the irresponsible use of the veto, concerned member states must set up an alternative mechanism such as an ad hoc tribunal;
authorize the OPCW Fact Finding Mission to determine responsibility for the chemical attacks in Idlib. To date, the OPCW Fact Finding Mission has not been mandated to determine responsibility for the use of chlorine gas. This has allowed Assad to claim publicly and maliciously—as he did most recently on Sunday 29 March 2015 in an interview featured on “60 Minutes”—that he has not used chemical weapons against his own people. Such lies should be answered with incontrovertible truth—truth which an OPCW Fact Finding Mission could provide, were it to be mandated to determine responsibility. The deliberate neutering of the OPCW Fact Finding Mission by one member of the Security Council has shamefully encouraged a lack of accountability.
Your Excellency, while we welcome the news that OPCW investigators may investigate the chemical weapons attacks in Idlib province, we are also conscious that such investigations have not, to date, deterred the Assad regime. The Fact Finding Mission alone will not stop Assad’s murder or prevent future deaths through chemical means. To stop Assad’s killing, the Security Council must deny the regime’s ability to kill by air. A no-fly zone remains the best and most feasible way to do so.
Please accept, Your Excellency, the assurances of my highest consideration.
Dr. Najib Ghadbian
Special Representative to the United Nations